Arches National Park is at its best during spring and fall, but it can be surprisingly pleasant during the winter season. The park is very beautiful during the winter, particularly when it has a dusting of soft snow.
Many people also camp in the park during the winter and that can be enjoyable if you have appropriate gear. If cold-weather camping is not your thing, great lodging options are available nearby in Moab. Some excellent properties offer off-season discounts.
The park's scenery changes very little from season to season. Juniper trees are common in the park and they stay green year-round. Cottonwood trees grow in the bottom of washes and they lose their leaves. The main attractions - the red sandstone formations - take on a richer hue during moist weather and look incredibly beautiful when flocked with snow.
Many iconic photos of Arches National Park attractions are taken during winter.
During December and January, daytime temperatures are usually mild, with the thermometer climbing into the mid 40s or even into the 50s. Winter nights can be very cold. The atmosphere is usually dry, with little cloud cover, so nighttime temperatures often plummet, occasionally dropping down near 0 F.
Most of the trails in the national park go through areas where there is plenty of sunshine and it is usually very pleasant to hike during the day. Typically, all you need is a jacket and on some days you will shed that. However, there are days when a cold wind blows, or storm clouds thicken, making it necessary to bundle up. During winter you need to dress in layers so you can easily adjust for optimum comfort.
Heavy snowfall is uncommon. Winter storms occur occasionally and they typically drop rain or light snow. Snow usually melts quickly in sunny areas, but may accumulate in shady spots. There may also be ice in shady spots. Winter hikers need to be prepared to cross snow on some trail sections, and to use great care if there is ice on trails.
The park's scenic drive is paved and almost never has snowpack. Any snow that falls on it usually melts quickly. Other park roads are dirt and may have spots that are muddy, snowy or icy.
Spring comes early in the Arches area. By late February, tiny wild flowers are starting to push through the soil and nighttime temperatures are moderating. February is a great month to visit the park.
On a winter day you will encounter a handful of people hiking to Delicate Arch or following the Devils Garden loop trail. That compares with hundreds of people a day making those treks during the warm months.
If you push beyond the popular trails, you can easily find solitude.
If you visit during the winter season, you need to pay attention to the weather report. Most days will be nice and you will be able to enjoy a full range of outdoor activities. A few days will be cold and stormy and you may want to limit activities. But even on stormy days it can be rewarding to take the scenic drive and view the sights.
Storms often move quickly in this country. A day may dawn stormy but the weather may clear and become nice by afternoon. If you are lucky enough to be in the area just after a storm, keep your camera handy because the scenery will be stunning.